Most Common Signs of a Stress Fracture

Being active comes with many rewards and a few risks. Some benefits of exercise and regular physical activity include a reduced risk of heart disease, improved mental health, and weight control. On the flip side, the more you move, the more likely you are to get injured.

One such injury you may experience is a stress fracture. A stress fracture is a small break or multiple tiny cracks in the bone, as opposed to a regular fracture, which is a broken bone. Stress fractures usually develop from overuse. They typically affect the bones in your feet and lower leg, since those are the bones that carry the weight of your body. 

It’s important to treat stress fractures right away so they don’t progress to a more severe injury. Orthopedic surgeon Brian King, MD, at Tuscaloosa Orthopedic & Joint Institute specializes in managing all types of fractures. After an examination, Dr. King develops a personalized treatment plan to help you get back to a pain-free active lifestyle as soon as possible. 

How do stress fractures happen?

Stress fractures occur with repeated impact. They can also happen when you start a new sport or change up your training routine, and your bones and body are not prepared for the stress. Other things that can lead to a stress fracture include:

You can prevent stress fractures by cross-training, wearing proper shoes, and eating a healthy diet. You should also ease into a new sport or workout or start slowly if you haven’t worked out in a while

For example, if you’ve taken the winter off from running or biking, don’t jump right back into the sport. Start with a few miles when you return to it in the spring and build up little by little.   

Common signs and symptoms of a stress fracture

It’s important to recognize the symptoms of a stress fracture so you can begin resting and treating it before it gets worse. The most common sign of a stress fracture is pain in the area with the damaged bone. Other signs and symptoms include:

If left untreated, the pain may get worse, and the fracture can progress to a broken bone. It can also lead to foot deformity and arthritis. 

Stress fracture treatment options

Your first step is to stop doing the activity that’s causing the pain. Rest is an essential part of treating most sports-related injuries. Ice, elevating your foot, and taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories can help relieve the pain and swelling.

If problems persist, your doctor may recommend wearing a cast or using crutches to keep your weight off the problem bones. Some stress fractures may require surgery to place pins, screws, or plates in the bones to hold them together during the healing process. It may take a while for your bones to heal, so be patient, enjoy your rest period, and listen to your doctor’s instructions. 

Do your feet or ankles hurt? Make an appointment with fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon Dr. King at Tuscaloosa Orthopedic & Joint Institute’s office in Northport, Alabama, for a medical evaluation and treatment plan. Call 205-354-2679, or you can send a message to the team here on the website.

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